A Vancouver police investigation focused on why officers did not respond to reports of break-ins to 20 vehicles at a parkade in the West End has found the dispatch centre responsible for the error.
E-Comm, which is the emergency communications centre for southwest British Columbia, failed to notify police of the break-ins at 1375 Nicola St., according to a report authored by Vancouver Police Department Staff Sgt. Lee Patterson.
E-Comm had received four separate “theft from auto” complaints and dispatchers were advised a number of other vehicles had also been broken into in the apartment’s parkade, the report said.
“In this case, I believe the call taker made a judgment call which was incorrect and also the judgment call was not verified with VPD supervisors on the road,” said Police Chief Jim Chu in commenting on the report at a recent Vancouver Police Board meeting.
The investigation was launched after a resident of the apartment building complained to the Vancouver Police Board about VPD not sending an officer to investigate the crimes, which occurred sometime during the evening of Nov. 28 or early morning of Nov. 29.
The resident, whose name was redacted from his written complaint, said residents were told by E-Comm dispatchers to file individual reports and that no officers would be dispatched.
“There were tens of thousands of dollars in damage and the police can’t be bothered to come investigate the crime,” the resident wrote in his letter. “That is completely unacceptable. What do the police do if they can’t be bothered to look for thieves who cause thousands in damages?”
Patterson’s report noted the dispatchers failed to contact the VPD’s telephone response team which could have resulted in sending an officer to the apartment building.
But, he noted, the dispatchers followed E-Comm’s standard operating procedure to not flag the calls as a priority because there were no investigative leads and the threshold of $5,000 in damages was not reached.
“Given the circumstances and totality of the offences and information available, this was not the appropriate response and the complainant’s concerns are valid,” wrote Patterson, acknowledging E-Comm’s policy is “not adequately worded” to trigger a police response to multiple vehicle break-ins at a parkade or elsewhere.
Patterson said E-Comm’s policy of recording each incident separately has “likely unintentionally reduced the number of reported commercial (break-in) files in residential parking lots.”
Jody Robertson, director of corporate communications at E-Comm, said in an email the VPD’s report on the incident was fair. But Robertson said it was important to note E-Comm’s policies “are actually the policies of our partner agencies and we’re required to follow them.”
“Because E-Comm is required to follow the policies and procedures of its partner agencies, any changes that an agency wishes to see made to its policy would, of course, be implemented at their direction,” she wrote. “That is our standard practice. We certainly welcome the opportunity to work with VPD on any review of any of the [standard operating procedures] used by our staff in service of the VPD.”
The main recommendation of Patterson’s report is that VPD and E-Comm consider amending policies related to calls received for multiple theft from auto incidents that occur at the same location and similar time.
“It is in the interests of both the VPD and E-Comm to improve the level of service to the community,” Patterson wrote.